Parental Incarceration and the Family: Psychological and Social Effects of Imprisonment on Children, Parents, and Caregivers

Parental Incarceration and the Family: Psychological and Social Effects of Imprisonment on Children, Parents, and Caregivers

Parental Incarceration and the Family: Psychological and Social Effects of Imprisonment on Children, Parents, and Caregivers

Parental Incarceration and the Family: Psychological and Social Effects of Imprisonment on Children, Parents, and Caregivers

Synopsis

Over 2% of U.S. children under the age of 18--more than 1,700,000 children--have a parent in prison. These children experience very real disadvantages when compared to their peers: they tend to experience lower levels of educational success, social exclusion, and even a higher likelihood of their own future incarceration. Meanwhile, their new caregivers have to adjust to their new responsibilities as their lives change overnight, and the incarcerated parents are cut off from their children's development. Parental Incarceration brings a family perspective to our understanding of what it means to have so many of our America's parents in prison. Drawing from the field's most recent research and the author's own fieldwork, Parental Incarceration offers an in-depth look at how incarceration affects entire families: offender parents, children, and care-givers. Through the use of exemplars, anecdotes, and reflections, Joyce Arditti puts a human face on the mass of humanity behind bars, as well as those family members who are affected by a parent's imprisonment.In focusing on offenders as parents, a radically different social policy agenda emerges--one that calls for real reform and that responds to the collective vulnerabilities of the incarcerated and their kin

Excerpt

Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.

Spinoza (1632–1677)

[People] may be said to resemble not the bricks of which a
house is built, but the pieces of a picture puzzle, each differ
ing in shape, but matching the rest, and thus bringing out the
picture.

Felix Adler

The visiting area of the jail had a mix of smells: urine, sweat, and desperation. I was instantly reminded of the homes I had visited during my tenure as a social worker, many years prior. The air was close and the room noisy as it was packed with visitors on this early Saturday morning. Children were fidgeting on their mothers’ laps, rolling around on the dirty floor, trying to make paper airplanes out of the religious pamphlets they had found in display racks on the wall. There were mostly women and children here today. I tried to push away the thoughts of an earlier visit to this facility, during which I had entered through a different door with the sheriff to tour the holding cells and “pods” where the prisoners spent their days, months, and sometimes years. No fresh air, no sunlight, no privacy, but instead noise, bars, day after day, hour after hour. A human zoo—a place invisible to most except the incarcerated and their captors. So much pain in that place—it overwhelmed me.

There is a reason that prisons are tucked away far from the hustle and bustle of daily life—built in remote towns that need jobs and “industry.” Human suffering, whether caused by one’s own actions or the actions of others, is a hard thing to confront. No one wants to feel it around them. No one wants to see it. Even this jail went unnoticed in the heart of town, probably because of the lack of windows. The sheriff told me that “he likes it that way.” The many jails and

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